Of course, I’d seen her before, she used the same solar showers we ocean swimmers always use, especially on cold days like today. We’d exchanged pleasantries on occasion and she was always bubbly and kind.
Today was different, instead of hearing her lovely voice from the back, most private shower, she was standing alone in the bath house, fighting back tears. I approached her, and asked if she was OK. She said her father had died, and no, she wasn’t, she was heartbroken. As the 20th anniversary of watching my beloved father die is near, my heart broke, once again, with hers. I asked if she needed a hug, and opened my arms. We held each other for a long time, her face buried in the shoulder of my wet suit. I gentle rocked her, the tears rolling down both our faces.
She is a Nigerian immigrant. Her father came here first and then brought the rest of his family when he was established enough to care for them. Her mother died when she was much younger. Her step mother had tried to block her from being there as her father passed, but she persisted and was by his side when he took his last breath.
She and I shared that now we were the last of our immediate families…orphaned. In my core, I understood how alone she was feeling.
Another swimmer joined the conversation, sharing her story of her own journey in losing her father, being in a mixed marriage with bi racial children, of battling with her step mother to see and care for her father. The world became very tiny, just us 3 women, sharing, caring, supporting.
The weird part is, I was barely managing my own tears before seeing hers. My life had felt overwhelming the past few months …a regular shit show with stress from every angle culminating in a meltdown with my very best friend a couple days earlier.
Holding this woman and crying with her, sharing her stories, her pain, our shared faith, even in the darkest of loss and doubt, was a gift to me. It reinforced my own strength as I reminded her of hers. It showed me there is a path out of the agony of loss to renewed faith. As we hugged one last time she thanked me and said I had brought the light back into her heart. I assured her, she had done the same for me.